Sports Safety Tips from Your Dentist

  • Published
  • By Capt. Se Ha “Cindy” Park
  • 86th Dental Squadron

“Down, Set, Hike!” Americans all around the world will be tuning into the Big Game in just a few days. No matter what the reason may be to watch this highly anticipated game - hometown team, party food, or halftime performers - many of us simply love the tradition and energy it brings. Before we try to reenact that one-handed diving catch or let our kids run drills in the backyard to be the next Patrick Mahomes, let’s talk about safety.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s reference manual on prevention of sports-related orofacial injuries, it was estimated in 2007 that about 46 million youths in the United States were involved in some form of sports throughout the past decade. The combination of tremendous popularity of organized sports and high level of competitiveness often breeds a great number of dental and facial injuries. One report from Dent Traumatol showed an average of 22,000 dental injuries in children less than 18 years of age. So, what can we do to help prevent these injuries?

Prevention is key!

Mouth guards or sports guards are easily accessible equipment that could prevent serious injuries to your teeth. They are typically fitted to cover the upper front teeth and designed to protect not only the teeth, but also lips, tongue, and other parts of your mouth. It’s especially important for those participating in high-contact sports or activities that involves risk of falls, collision, or contact with hard surfaces or equipment.

This preventative equipment is available for your kids from primary dentists or from a local store.

Treatment options for injury

If there was an injury, try not to panic. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If there is visible injury, the bite doesn’t feel the way it did before, or lingering dental pain, make a visit to your local dentist.

Minor cuts and bruising can usually be taken care of with some ibuprofen and ice. If you notice open cuts, significant bruising, or portions of teeth missing along with wounds, that might call for a visit to your dentist.

If the tooth is slightly chipped with no pain, the tooth can be smoothed or repaired depending on the size. If cracked or broken, teeth should be evaluated by a dentist as soon as possible. There’s a chance it may need a root canal at the time of injury or in the future. The tooth will require careful monitoring and will most likely require some sort of treatment.

Missing teeth

It’s scary, but it happens. If you lose a tooth, first try to find the tooth if you can. If it’s a baby tooth that gets knocked out, visit your dentist, and do NOT attempt to reimplant the tooth back into the socket. This can damage the developing adult tooth and cause other damages. The potential risks may not be worth keeping a baby tooth that is bound to fall out.

For adult teeth, time is of the essence! VERY gently rinse off any dirt or large debris and reimplant the tooth in the socket as soon as possible. Do NOT scrub or wipe the teeth clean, because it will remove and kill the cells on the root that are vital to healing and reattachment.

If you don’t feel confident reimplanting, the most ideal option is to place the tooth in Hanks’ Balanced Salt Solution, which is a buffered salt solution to maintain pH and osmotic conditions for cells to live. Several options of the solution can be ordered online and added to an at-home first aid kit. If you do not have that at home, the second option is to place the tooth in milk.

Do not place a missing tooth in only water because it could damage the cells on the tooth. Call your local dentist and try to be seen as soon as possible! The best chance for reimplantation success is care within the first hour, so try to act quickly.

Protection and prevention are vital to avoid injuries. Check out your local store or dentist to get a mouth guard made. Injuries won’t keep us from continuing to participate in the sports we love, but we can take action to have fun AND be safe! Go team!